Recap and Review: Supernatural 8.09: Citizen Fang

By Paula R. Stiles

[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]

Tagline: Sam brings in another Hunter, Martin, to track Benny. Things get sticky when Dean finds out and suspicious deaths occur in the town where Benny is staying.

Recap: Quick (40-second) recap of the greatest hits of three guest characters: Martin from “Sam, Interrupted,” Amelia and Benny. We end on Sam smugly declaring that there will be a reckoning with Benny. Yeah…though not quite the one Sam expected. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves in the plot.

Cut to Carenco, Louisiana at night. CCR’s “Born on the Bayou” is playing. It’s a great song and a great song cue. Even better, it won’t be the last one this episode.

We’re at Guidry’s Cajun Cafe, advertising “oysters, po’ boys, gumbo” with a neon alligator in a hat (nice set design). It’s a beat-up little gumbo shack in the middle of nowhere (Am not personally a gumbo fan, since okra boiled up with its insides makes me yak). As we walk into through the screen door (nice direction in this one, too), we see a young local woman giving the cook instructions on closing up for the night as she leaves. When the cook turns away from the stove, we see it’s Benny. He reassures the young woman that he knows how to close up shop for the night, so stop fretting. There’s an easy chemistry between them, avuncular rather than sexual or simply co-worker friendly.

As she leaves, we see an old man has been watching her. At first, it seems Benny didn’t notice, but Benny doesn’t miss much. When the old man comments on her being a nice girl, Benny is noncommittal, though more because he perceives her as a “little sister” than that he doesn’t like her. When the old man asks if he can ask her out, Benny gives him a very long look and then says that’s up to him. “Liz” seems like a nice girl and reasonably streetwise. Nor has she been giving off anything approaching come-hither vibes. But she seems to have attracted the attention of one of those dangerously clueless guys who think a woman who is polite but openly not interested is somehow repressing her insatiable desire to jump all over him.

Another patron taps his coffee cup on the table and asks for a refill. As Benny comes over to fill the request, we see the guy is Martin, acting very suspiciously (hunched over and watching Benny closely). Uh-oh.

Later that night, Benny shuts the place down, neon alligator last (but the beer signs stay on). As he comes out, he looks as if he’s heard something odd and goes to his right into the bushes. Martin comes from the other side of the shack and follows him. Out on the bayou, Benny hears rustling. Following him along a cast-iron fence, Martin hears the same rustling, and then a choking cry from a man. Pulling out a large knife, he investigates. In the dark, he trips over the fresh, dead body of the old man from the shack, bite marks in his throat.

Cue title cards.

Cut to daytime at Lost in the 50s Drive-In (hee) in Somewhere, USA. Dean is walking out to the Impala with burgers and sodas, while Sam is in the shotgun seat, talking on his cell phone. He confirms some information with the person over the phone as Dean gets in the driver’s side, then hangs up because the other person won’t wait. He tells Dean they have to leave – now.

When Dean asks if he can eat his burger, first, Sam says there’s a vampire-related death in Louisiana, as if Dean should know what that means. It appears that Dean doesn’t, as Dean reminisces about Etouffe, instead. Sam then says who the person on the other end was – Martin.

Dean is appalled that Sam has gotten Martin back into hunting. He only got out of the mental hospital a month ago and is still “crazy.” Sam insists that Martin seemed “mostly” sane when he met up with him and anxious to get back to hunting. So, Sam threw him a bone in the shape of a job. Dean really doesn’t like what he hears next, when Sam admits (with considerable self-righteousness) that said job was tracking Benny and that it appears Benny has killed, after all. To his credit, Dean rolls with it, though, and says that they should check it out.

The brothers drive to Carenco and shack up in the Beaudelaire (It has been noted that Baudelaire was a famous poet, but the Cafe Beaudelaire is also apparently a Brazilian restaurant in Ames, Iowa). Two seconds into their meeting with Martin, it’s obvious that he is a. still a few fries short of a Happy Meal and b. not at all interested in cutting Benny any kind of break. Dean immediately questions Martin’s sanity (Martin does not appreciate this and makes a crack about daily shock therapy), while Sam uses the Fake Sympathy Act to get more information out. Martin talks about Doomed Teaser Guy and Dean points out Martin didn’t actually see Benny (who is calling himself “Roy” locally) kill anybody. Instead of admitting this, Martin gets very angry and defensive and cites Occam’s Razor (The simplest explanation is usually the correct one). After all, Benny’s a vampire. There was a vampire kill, so it must be Benny.

When Dean skeptically asks Sam if this sounds like the Benny he knows, Sam says he doesn’t know Benny (and yet, he thinks he knows his rival in brotherhood enough to put a Hunter on his trail). On the other hand, he’s looking as though he doesn’t know Martin as well as he thought, either. Dean insists he’s not going on “a witchhunt” without knowing for sure. He has “history” with Benny and considers him a friend. Martin, who is extremely manic through the whole conversation, just about blows a gasket at the idea of a “Winchester” associating with a vampire. Even so, Dean insists that he will “handle it” and that he needs a few hours to track Benny down and talk to him. Then he leaves, shutting the door on Martin’s sputter. Sam agrees to it (though only a few hours) and insists that Martin hold to the promise. This is about the only smart thing Sam does the entire episode, since I don’t think even Sam and Martin together could take Benny.

Unfortunately, this cues yet another boring Samelia flashback (Please, show, just stop). Sam is playing with the dog when Amelia comes outside. Sam asks if she’s talked to Don and she says she doesn’t know what to say. Sam says he doesn’t care what’s “right.” He thinks what they have is right and he wants to fight for it. She says she does, too, but she needs a few days to think about it. They hold hands and he looks sympathetic as he reluctantly says that’s a great idea.

Ugh.

Back in the present, Dean enters the shack (passing a couple of cops, one of whom glances up at him in a slightly confused way. Well, Dean was once on the Most Wanted list). He bellies up to the counter where he’s served by Elizabeth, herself. She guesses he wants gumbo. He admits he’d rather have pie. As she heads for the pecan, he notices a photo of her with Benny on the wall. She comes back with the news that there is no pie and he ruefully admits that that has become a given in his life. He then admits that he is looking for “Roy.” Elizabeth says he works the night shift, but Dean is able to worm a little more out of her by mentioning Benny’s beat-up camper. She says that Benny was parking it out back, but only today decided to go “fishing” up on Mill Creek (There’s a Da Vinci’s Inquest episode in which an ex-con uses “gone fishing” as code for breaking parole, and then eventually is found in the woods, having hanged himself). After some mutual flirting and exchange of first names, Dean gives her his number in case she sees Benny. Then he goes outside (Both cops glance at him this time) and calls Benny himself. He points out in his message that bodies with holes in them are never a good sign for a vampire.

Cut to nighttime and Benny checking his voicemail – while standing over the body of a young black girl with holes in her throat.

The next day, he’s finishing burying the body and washing his hands in a (no-doubt-mosquito-infested) barrel when Dean arrives. We get a nice shot of Benny from the bottom of the barrel. Benny’s first words are that it wasn’t him. Dean, holding his machete behind his back, asks which “him” they’re talking about – Benny or Roy? Touching his own bolo lying on a nearby stump, Benny asks Dean to sheath his machete and listen to his side. So, Dean brings it around front and says he’s listening, hidden hostility becoming overt.

Benny says it was another vampire, a “rogue” named ‘Desmond’ who remembers Dean from before. Despite Benny not having been on the planet for five decades, he calls Desmond a “youngster” and an “amateur.” He admits that he wasn’t always a nice guy. Desmond wants to create a new nest and recruit Benny as a sort of revered elder. In the course of the conversation, Dean finds out that Carenco is Benny’s hometown, and that Dean and Andrea were the only two humans keeping him on the straight and narrow. With Andrea vamped and dead, and Dean hunting once more, Benny feels alone and adrift. This gets to Dean, who seems a bit guilty over it. The whole conversation has the feel of an alcoholic talking to his AA sponsor. Of course, that would also imply that Dean has his own bloodlust to control – and is just better at it.

Benny then also admits that he’s still got family. Dean immediately guesses he means Elizabeth, then looks even guiltier when Benny says she’s his great-granddaughter. When Benny, rather horrified, twigs to the idea that his brother in arms might have flirted with her, Dean lies his ass off. Benny goes on to say that Elizabeth keeps him sane. It seems that in Purgatory, he felt no bloodlust. On earth, it’s much harder. He figures he’s finally got a handle on the hunger.

Dean points out that having two bodies in the ground and two Hunters in the area is not handling things. Benny scoffs, admitting he noticed Martin already at the diner and dismissing him as a threat. Dean warns Benny that Sam sent Martin and Sam is a much greater threat. Methinks there’s a little family pride in Dean making this sound as if Sam is a great Hunter whom Benny should respect and fear (when it’s obvious the only Hunter Benny respects and fears is Dean), but he does have a point that Sam is dangerous to deal with. Because Sam’s been pretty underhanded this season and that makes him unpredictable.

Benny says he’s got bigger fish to fry. He’s got to find Desmond and send him off to Purgatory. Dean thinks that’s a terrible idea. It will only convince them that Benny is the killer. Dean says Benny has to stand aside and let Dean convince the other two to hunt Desmond, instead. Benny wonders if they’ll even believe Dean and Dean looks not sure.

He shouldn’t be, either. Back at the Beaudelaire, Martin is drinking heavily (Bet that mixes well with the psych meds that he should still be taking and are still in his system from the hospital) and stuck on his fixed idea that Benny Must Die. Dean tries to argue on Benny’s behalf, noting that he wouldn’t be killing customers where he works (and mentioning the great-granddaughter), while Sam just stands there like a lump.

Sam then pushes the issue by asking if Dean is just going on trusting Benny. When Dean admits that yeah, he is, and all of his relationships eventually go to pot anyway, Sam is pissed off to hear that Dean trusts Benny more than him. Rather than admit that Dean has every bitter reason to trust just about anybody but his own brother, Sam makes a snotty remark and decides it’s time to go hunt Benny. In response, Dean tells Sam this is a very, very, very bad idea because Benny is more than his match. There’s no way Sam can take on Benny and he’ll only get Martin killed if Sam takes the screwy old Hunter with him. Martin then comes up behind Dean and whacks him over the head when Dean turns around, knocking him out. Sam is horrified, but not enough to stop Martin from leaving Dean there, chained to a radiator, while they go off to hunt Benny. And Martin is so clearly nuts that Sam looks stupid going with him.

So, naturally, it’s time for another Samelia flashback.

This time, Sam is drinking in a bar when a man comes up and says his name. The man turns out to be Don (oh, dear). Don doesn’t want to fight. He only wants to talk. Sam admits that Don has had a rough time (It sounds as though he was a POW and he moves with painful slowness). Don cuts right to the chase. He turns out to be incredibly understanding. In about a minute of screentime, he shows more growth than Sam has in over seven seasons. He figures that it’s nobody’s fault, seeing as how everybody thought he was dead. Amelia is the one who gets to make the decision on what she’s going to do next. He’s going to respect it; Sam should, too. Then he pays for Sam’s beer and walks off. Wow. Go, Don.

Cut back to present day, where Dean is picking the lock on his handcuffs (Gotta love how casually this show treats head injuries). As soon as he’s free, he calls Benny to warn him.

Benny is mooning over the photo (or a copy of it) from the gumbo shack when he gets the call. Despite Dean’s warnings that Sam will kill him if he finds him, Benny isn’t very impressed by Sam (Well, Benny…ya got me there. Neither am I right now). He asks what the plan is now. Dean says he’s going to find Desmond and kill him, himself, while Benny sits things out in a hiding place. Benny insists on coming along or he won’t tell Dean where Desmond is. Surprised that Benny has this information, Dean rather reluctantly agrees to let Benny in on the hunt while he’s leaving the Beaudelaire. Why do I get the feeling that Dean’s wanting Benny to sit things out is partly because he likes hunting with Benny a tad too much? Benny’s not the only character showing a tendency to slip into bad old habits in this episode.

Later that night, Sam and Martin are investigating Benny’s camp. I have no idea why they think poking a vampire in his lair at night is a great idea. Martin starts to check out something offscreen, which turns out to be the photo of Benny with Elizabeth (Why would Benny leave that on the ground and didn’t Martin hear Dean talking about Benny’s great-granddaughter before?). Sam gets a call (His phone is on ringer while he’s investigating a vampire lair in the middle of the bayou at night? How stupid is that? Winchester boys, put your damn phones on mute while on hunts). It’s from Amelia and it’s a message: “Sam, I need your help. Come quick.”

Martin literally looks up to hear a squeal of tires and see red taillights as Sam steals his car, and leaves him standing in the dark and the rain. That’s how fast Sam takes off on his booty call. No message. No callback. No bringing Martin along. Not even a “Hey, Martin. I got an emergency; see ya!”

By the way, it takes about twelve hours and nearly eight hundred miles to get from Carenco, LA to Kermit, TX. Depends on whether you take I-20 (784.68 miles) or I-10 (797.36 miles). It’s dark when Sam leaves and we will also see that it’s dark when Sam arrives, which is rather odd, since the scenes at the gumbo shack of everyone in shirtsleeves indicate it’s at least not winter, if not high summer.

Martin, needless to say, is mighty pissed off. I can’t say I blame him. In addition to being stuck out there at the campsite of an ubervamp comparable to the Alpha, he’s also out in a swamp full of gators, snakes, rats, spiders, ticks, and other creatures you’d never see coming even on Billy the Exterminator. Too bad he chooses to blame Dean, too (you know, the guy he cold-cocked and left handcuffed to a radiator) and then Benny.

That same night, Dean arrives at a dock, where Benny is waiting. Dean has the Impala, so Sam at least wasn’t dumb enough to take it this time. Guess those threats from “The Girl Next Door” and “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?” finally got through.

Sadly, Dean does not bring along his Purgatory blade, carrying only the simple machete that he brought to his meeting with Benny at his camp. But he also comes with a rack full of syringes of dead man’s blood. Dean asks if Benny wants him to hang back, while they trade snark about Dean’s lack of love for vampires, but they end up both going into what looks like a dockside warehouse or a mill. Once inside, they split up, Dean walking around with the miniature version of the old X-Files mega-torches (I covet that flashlight), his breath frosting. When a figure passes behind him, Dean turns, having heard it. And when the vamp silently slips down behind him, Dean hears that, too. But the vampire gets the drop on him and tosses him across the floor. He lands hard and the vamp, Desmond, lands hard on top of him. When Dean goes for a syringe, snarking about having to deal with crazy all day, Desmond shatters it inside his fist then slams Dean’s hand down onto the wood floor. As Dean grunts in pain, the gloating vamp makes a slash across his throat and tastes Dean’s blood, before starting to go for the kill. Then someone drags Desmond off Dean and slashes off his head. It’s Benny.

Getting a hand up from Benny, Dean trades a few cracks with him about being out of shape. But it’s Benny who has to turn away from the sight of Dean’s blood. Noticing, Dean asks if he’s okay.

Outside, they have THAT conversation, in which Benny realizes he has to go on the run again and Dean confirms it. Hunters will be after Benny and he can’t take them all on (I could have sworn the show said Sam was all alone and that there were hardly any Hunters left after last year, so where are all these Benny-hatin’ Hunters coming from?). Even if he could, that would bring him into conflict with Dean.

“Guys like us,” Dean says, “we don’t get a home. We don’t get family.” It’s a sad statement, but also note how Dean puts the two of them in the same category. There’s no Human and Vampire divide going on, here.

“You’ve got Sam,” Benny says and Dean laughs a little, sadly and cynically. Hmm.

Cut to Sam in Martin’s car, maybe halfway to Kermit before he finally decides to call Amelia. He gets an “unavailable” message and tosses the phone down, looking like a two-year-old having a fit. Cue another tedious flashback in which Amelia enters their bedroom to find Sam packing. It appears Sam had a belated attack of conscience after his chat with Don and is leaving. But, true to form, he hasn’t told Amelia yet. She has to ask him what he’s doing. Needless to say, his announcement comes completely out of the blue.

Amelia guesses that Don found Sam at the bar, but Sam corrects her on thinking Don threatened him. He says he thinks she and Don “deserve a chance” and decides to leave them to it. End of flashback. Wow, that was a long minute.

Later, Benny and Dean are standing outside the gumbo shack, looking in at Elizabeth, who is working Benny’s shift. Benny thanks Dean for “not giving up on me.” Dean says in a warning, but affectionate, tone, “Don’t give me a reason to.” Benny then leaves and so does Dean.

Back on the road, Dean calls Martin, who is still walking out of the woods. Keep in mind that Dean doesn’t know where Martin is. Dean openly admits to having gone hunting with Benny to track down Desmond and kill him. With the situation “resolved,” Benny has left the scene permanently. Dean adds in an exasperated tone, “For your own sake, do not follow him.”

Unfortunately, Martin is far too angry to listen to this. He says in a creepy, lilting tone that he hears Dean’s message (Too bad he pays no attention to it). With a last warning (“Find a new line of work”), Dean hangs up. You know this won’t end well.

Benny is in a pickup when he gets a call from Elizabeth. When he answers, he gets Martin, who has “borrowed” her phone while eating cherry pie. The threat is clear – come to the shack or Martin will kill Elizabeth.

Now, I’ve always liked Martin. He was one of my favorite guest characters in the past. And the beginning of this episode upset me by making him both the main “bad guy” of the episode and now inexplicably hostile toward Dean (well…perhaps not entirely inexplicably, the way the brothers left him in the hospital, but it’s still something that needed to be addressed, not left to fanon).

At this point in the episode, however, I was ready for him to go. Yeah, Sam was a jackass, leaving him like that for a booty call. Yeah, I can see Dean’s ‘new’ attitude about vampires seeming a bit confusing (to say the least). But there is a moral line and the way he treats Elizabeth, who is a total innocent in all this and fully human, as terrorized bait is that line.

With a tight deadline, Benny roars back to the shack (I think his one big mistake is not calling Dean on the way, but maybe he thought Dean might protect Martin rather than kill the old bastard, himself). There’s a nice bit where he passes a cluster of hanging bottles, a version of the bottle tree, going into the shack. This is an old tradition of catching night spirits in bottles and Canadian author Nalo Hopkinson once wrote a wonderful variation on it (as well as on a fairy tale that I won’t spoil for you) called “The Glass Bottle Trick,” which you can find in the anthology, Dark Matter: Reading the Bones. It’s possible this is related to the shamanistic tradition among some Siberian tribes of tying pieces of cloth to trees.

The shack has been closed up, so only Martin and his hostage are inside. Elizabeth is sitting in a chair (It’s not clear if she’s tied down, since her sweater is covering her arms, though she does appear to be) and she is terrified. Not to mention, very confused. To her, of course, Martin is the bad guy and Benny is her tarnished white knight.

After rising up from behind Elizabeth in a menacing pose and putting his knife to her throat, Martin immediately sets out to shatter that image, ignoring Benny’s attempts to mend fences. First, he calls Benny an “unholy thing” and then outs him as her great-grandfather, while mentioning Benny’s friendship with “Dean and your little Purgatory reunion.” Elizabeth is shocked but not quite as willing to reject Benny as Martin has assumed. Not that it matters, since Martin is only using her to lure Benny in to lay his head on a chair next to her and let Martin kill him (after which, presumably, he’ll kill her, too, as an inconvenient witness). He emphasizes the threat by slicing into Elizabeth’s throat, both to show her Benny’s bloodlust and to show Benny he means business. Note that Martin is perfectly okay with arousing bloodlust in a vampire against an innocent to further his own agenda. His excuse is that Benny won’t bite his own family.

After barely controlling his fangs, Benny apologizes to Elizabeth and obeys Martin. Unexpectedly, Elizabeth is horrified by his sacrifice and doesn’t want him to die, even knowing he’s a vampire. Wow. Go Elizabeth.

Just as Martin goes for Benny with his machete, though, Elizabeth screams – and all hell breaks loose.

Cut to Sam pulling up to his previously shared house with Amelia and lurking outside the window. I get that this is intended to mask and draw out what happens back at the gumbo shack, but still, what the hell, show? Do I look as if I give a rat’s fuzzy posterior about Samelia at this moment in time?

It’s no surprise to anyone what Sam sees when he peers inside. Amelia is getting a beer for Don and sitting down next to him in the living room, in a mirror of Lisa and her new boyfriend in “Let It Bleed,” right before the demons showed up. Looks as if Don has moved right into the home Sam and Amelia set up together. Barf.

Tail between his legs, Sam slinks back to Martin’s car and gets in.

Cut to Dean roaring down the road in the Impala, singing along to what sounds like an early Rolling Stones cover of “I’m Alright,” by Bo Diddley, and trying to cheer himself up. His phone rings and he answers it. It’s Elizabeth, covered with blood and talking about ‘Roy.’ Dean immediately turns the radio off. Once he registers the panic in her voice and her plea to come quickly (this plea being quite real), he slews the Impala around (in the middle of a crossroads, no less) and heads back to the gumbo shack at top speed. Man, that is a busy place.

Dean barrels up to the shack, where Elizabeth is waiting on the steps, cell phone in hand. This is a nice, evocative shot through the screen door out past her to the car’s headlights. Elizabeth is shaking as Dean gets out and sees the blood all over her. When he takes out a handkerchief and places it on her neck wound, she closes her eyes and leans into his hand in relief at the simple, human gesture. With a gentle hand on her shoulder, he enters the shack. Hmm, something going on between these two. Even Benny saw it earlier.

Inside, a clearly apprehensive Dean follows a blood trail through the thoroughly trashed shack to a dead body. While I can’t say he looks thrilled to find it’s Martin, eyes staring with a slashed/bitten-out throat (Depending on the angle of the swooping shot, the slashes look either like clawmarks or knifemarks), he doesn’t look too upset, either. Considering the alternatives, he seems to figure this is one of the not-worst ones. It looks as though Martin fought hard, with smashed chairs everywhere and a bloody knife lying beside his head. However, the blood pool beside it is large and undisturbed (and not something we saw with the other two bodies). If Benny fed, there’s no sign of it on Martin’s body.

Sitting in a honkytonk bar, drinking and moping to a country western cover (Bret Michaels, maybe?) of Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (Note to cranky early-season-lovers: That’s three classic rock songs on prominent display in this episode), Sam checks his phone again. Then he tries calling again. In the Impala, a phone rings in the glove compartment. Dean, who is driving, looks puzzled. Taking out the phone, he looks at it for a moment, seeing his brother’s caller ID, then answers it.

Shockingly to no one, Sam is not thrilled to find out the phone is Dean’s. He guesses that Dean cloned Amelia’s number to a burner phone. Dean admits he did it a while back (right after “Southern Comfort,” I bet), just in case. He asks if Sam saw Amelia. Sam grumpily says she’s “fine” and that Dean must know that, already. Dean says he has no clue what’s going on with Amelia (seeing as how he’s not the one stalking her), but he figured sending a text was the perfect way to lure Sam away.

Speaking of the hunt, Sam finally asks if it’s been resolved and Dean says yes. Sam asks if there were “any casualties.” Dean informs him that Martin died, which distresses Sam (though he didn’t care enough to ask about Martin’s welfare first instead of not at all). Sam immediately assumes it was Benny. Dean says coldly that Martin “had it coming,” and tries to explain the very complicated situation that his brother mostly created and he himself just ended, but Sam hangs up on him, all pissed off. Yeah, well, I’m thinking Dean’s fresh out of patience, himself, considering he probably just spent a few hours cleaning up Elizabeth and the shack, and planting Martin somewhere deep. I’m getting really tired of wanting to punch Sam’s lights out, show. Give him an epiphany about his stupidity, have Dean beat some sense into him, or write him out, ’cause this self-righteous thirty-something toddler crap is getting old.

Anyhoo, the episode ends on Sam’s flaring nostrils as he turns around, only to find Amelia standing behind him. Whoops. Sam, you got some ‘plainin’ to do.

Review: “Citizen Fang” is not really the halfway point in the season, despite the advertising hyperbole about it being the midseason finale. Even if this weren’t a 23-episode season, it wouldn’t be even close to halfway. As it is, we won’t get there until 8.12, probably in early February (There doesn’t appear to be an episode scheduled for January 30).

This is not to say that the episode (a much better entry by Daniel Loflin than his erstwhile partner Andrew Dabb’s “Southern Comfort,” and a more sympathetic – or at least more nuanced – view of the Deep South) has nothing to offer in terms of enlightenment about where we are going this season. However, like season two’s ninth episode, the ominous and gamechanging classic “Croatoan,” this one will probably seem a lot clearer and more significant in retrospect.

So, much of this review will be devoted to theories that may or may not play out over the course of the season. File it under “Midseason Fanwank” if none of it does.

Because what this episode does have is plenty of fodder for fanwank as we roar into the ever-painful Christmas hiatus. First (and, methinks, most minor), we got the Samelia story brought up to the present, with Amelia appearing as a real person. I am guessing, since Sam sees her in a public bar, that she will not turn out to be an hallucination. For those who were wondering what the big reveal about this relationship was, remember that Carver insisted we’d get a big reveal about whether or not Amelia was real. Well…she’s real, she knows Sam, and it looks as though they did have one corker of a relationship.

Also, Don’s real, too. Sam may be rubbing an awful lot of vaseline over the lens of his memories of her, but they appear to be quite real in their basic content. A case of hysterical amnesia or brainwashing like Dean or Castiel’s (let alone the more elaborate fan theories that all of this was in Sam’s head à la Fred Jones) does not seem to be in the offing for Sam.

As for the theories that Amelia might be an agent of Naomi…yeah, maybe, but she’s looking increasingly like a mundane, boring, bitter, entirely human vet. If there’s anything supernatural going on there, my money’s on Don being an angelled-up zombie, a demon, a shapeshifter, a Leviathan, or an angel vessel. Not like Sam had the motherwit to check Don out for that while they were in the bar, talking. Not even a few words of Latin.

You’re probably wondering why I’m beginning the review with the lesser of two weevils, as it were. I’m doing so because there are two cliffhangers here. Sam seeing Amelia is the last one before the credits, but it’s also the lesser one, the one that fans in general didn’t care about. The greater one, of course, is the huge rift between the brothers opened up by pretty much everyone’s actions this episode, but especially by Sam’s (all-too-predictable at this point) jealous asshattery toward Benny.

The two cliffhangers don’t appear to be entirely arbitrary in their arrangement if you look at the current new alignment of characters. Sam doesn’t just want to retire from Hunting. He’s decided to move as far away as possible from any supernatural associations. In fact, he’s developed some awfully convenient amnesia about his own previous demon blood. As far as he’s concerned, that’s all in the past. Now, he’s associating with human Hunters like Garth and Martin (who, it must be said, aren’t the best and the brightest of an already-shallow gene pool) and the Trans.

Meanwhile, Dean has been avoiding almost all Human association. His two best friends are a fallen angel and a reformed vampire. Hunters want to kill the latter and Dean has already been assaulted on Benny’s behalf. I will be not the least bit surprised if it occurs to someone (If it isn’t Sam, he may let it slip) that Dean was once a vampire himself and now he’s associating with them, even against other Hunters. That can’t possibly be a good thing for Dean in the long run.

It reminds me of a rumored storyline that was supposed to occur in the latter part of season three, before the Writers Strike cut it down to 16 episodes. Gordon (or the daughter of the Hunter, Steve Wandell, whom Meg/Sam killed in season two) was going to gather together a bunch of Hunters – but they were going to hunt Dean, apparently due to his demon deal. This season feels as though Sam will align himself with other Hunters (whichever ones are left and are willing to work with him), while Dean will align with more supernatural forces.

I was thinking for a while that Benny could turn out to be a Blade-like figure. He has been racking up quite a vampire body count since he came back from Purgatory (and they must surely hate him at this point as much as Hunters do). But I’m beginning to wonder if that liminal figure will be Dean. Martin makes a comment about where Benny came from and his friendship with Dean in Purgatory. Dean came from the same place. Also, there have been references throughout the season to Dean being sharper, stronger and faster than before. Even in this episode, where Benny tells him he’s slacking off, Dean still hears the rival vampire, despite the vampire slipping down behind him without making a sound. Dean also sensed that something is very wrong with Castiel in previous episodes.

Benny seems to have been used as a reference point to show that Dean has been changed a great deal by Purgatory, and not just psychologically. Will other Hunters, who have in the past been exceedingly bigoted about even small deviations from the Human norm, tolerate this or will they Hunt him? And if Dean finds himself actively Hunted by other Hunters, especially if Sam is among them, how will he respond? As he tells Benny, he can’t take them all on alone.

It’s interesting that Dean, Benny and Castiel are all outcasts who have killed their own kind in the defense of others (or not, in the case of Castiel). Benny has killed several vampires, in revenge and for defense. Dean has killed other humans, rival practitioners in black magic. Castiel has killed a boatload of other angels. In that sense, they only have each other.

I do not think that Benny fed and I think that will come up later on. I say this, first of all, because nothing whatsoever was what it seemed in this episode. Benny was not guilty, no matter how many times it looked that way. So, it would be contradictory to have him be guilty of feeding now. Also, there was the huge amount of blood around Martin’s body. The show usually shows more gore than a big blood puddle (even when the latter makes more sense from a physiological point of view). In this case, I think the blood puddle was intended to show that Benny (or was it Elizabeth?) killed Martin and then did not drink. Because, if he had drunk, that puddle would have been disturbed and/or not there. And there would be no reason, in story terms, to show it. I think Martin just bled out.

On rewatch, I quite liked Elizabeth and her interactions with both Benny and Dean. By this, I don’t so much mean the flirting between her and Dean early on because a lot of bar wenches have come and gone on this show. I mean that she did not immediately reject Benny when it was revealed to her who and what he was. And she even was horrified and begging for his life when he laid his head down for Martin, rather than hysterically self-involved. I liked that. I also liked that she had a purpose for being there, aside from just being a damsel in distress or a potential love interest. I think the biggest mistake shows continue to make (and this show sure has) is to introduce female characters as love interests first and characters second. There lie Lana Langs, TV writers.

But just because Elizabeth has been introduced in a way that is not as a love interest doesn’t mean she couldn’t be one. Unlike, say, Lisa, she is now well and truly stuck in the soup that is the Hunting life. When you find out your great-granddaddy is a vampire and you nearly get killed in the crossfire with a Hunter, that’s how these things go. I always hoped that Lisa and Ben would be a way of showing how people get into the Life and how they become Hunters. It’s always been discussed in passing, but never truly shown as an actual process. Elizabeth as a character might be a way to show that.

Also, since she can’t (and isn’t trying to) deny that the supernatural exists, there may be grounds for a relationship between her and Dean – friendship or romantic, I really don’t care. Just get some recurring female characters back onto this show that don’t make me hurl. Somebody had to clean up Martin’s body and make sure Elizabeth didn’t go down for murder. Dean would want to watch over Benny’s kin, as well. And the way the actors played it hinted at something more involved. When Dean takes out his handkerchief to put on her cut, Elizabeth leans into it with relief.

It reminds me of Grandpa Shady talking in “Unforgiven” about how he and Deanna decided to settle down when Deanna became pregnant with Mary (Remember that Carver invented those two characters). The implication in that story is that they were both previously Hunters, even perhaps partners. The upshot? I’m not sure we’ve seen the last of Elizabeth.

I have seen references in interviews this season to Dean reverting to season one. It feels almost as if the brothers’ storyline is becoming an inverted version, thematically, to the earlier seasons, with Dean now the hunted supernatural brother and Sam the normal human brother who must decide whether to protect his brother or leave him twisting in the wind (so far, it’s pretty much the latter). This episode seemed to echo Kim Manners episodes, especially. In “Scarecrow,” for example, Dean is literally hunted by humans intent on using him, Wicker Man-style, as a human sacrifice to a pagan god so that they can keep their nice, comfortable life.

And in Manners’ last episode, “Metamorphosis,” we get some intense morality play over what constitutes a monster (The humans are the villains again and Travis suffers a similar fate to Martin’s), except that, in “Citizen Fang,” we don’t get an easy resolution of the sympathetic monster unable to control his urges and ending up dead. In this one, we’re stuck with the monster after he kills in self-defense and we have to decide how we feel about that.

I’m reminded of Dean’s words to Sam from that previous episode: “If I didn’t know you, I would want to hunt you…and so would other Hunters.” These words could as easily be applied now to Dean. His humanity this episode was a very, very thin thread that kept him alive, albeit unconscious and handcuffed to a radiator. How long will that thread last?

It is entirely possible that the brothers will end up on opposite sides by the end of the season. One curious thing is that Naomi has made no attempt (so far) to mend this rift between them, despite telling Castiel to watch over the “Winchesters.” This could mean a few things. One, this rift could work very well for her plans, even if she’s not making it happen. Two, she could be orchestrating the rift (though I’d rather everybody be exercising their own Free Will in this storyline, for once). Three, she could mainly be concerned with just Dean (or Sam) and therefore doesn’t care if the other one takes off. Four, she simply doesn’t know enough about what’s going on with the brothers (who are hidden from her by their Enochian rib sigils) to be aware they’re ready to split up.

The rift itself is a peculiar one. Sam seems to have become downright hateful toward his brother. He constantly threatens to leave, yet never does. Dean, meanwhile, appears to be drifting away from Sam further into the supernatural world and this is actually making Sam panic that he’s losing Dean – which makes him act even more hostile. Sam seems to be operating along the lines of: “If I can’t have you as my brother, no one else will.” Dean still seems to love his brother enough to protect him, but doesn’t seem to like Sam very much, anymore.

And this is understandable. In “Citizen Fang,” Sam went behind Dean’s back and brought in another Hunter to spy on Benny. Said Hunter, Martin, had gotten out of a mental hospital only a week before and was notably unstable (not to mention, downright intolerant). After Martin assaulted Dean and knocked him unconscious, Sam either stood by while Martin handcuffed his brother to the radiator or helped. They then left Dean there, vulnerable and out cold in a place where they knew there was an active vampire hunting prey, and went off to murder Dean’s vampire best friend in cold blood. You can argue all you want about how monsters always turn bad on this show, but the only reason to hunt and kill Benny in this episode was because he wasn’t human. Everything he did would be considered self-defense or defense of another.

Dean then escaped and texted Sam on a burner phone he had set up beforehand (because he no longer trusted Sam), pretending to be Amelia in trouble. Believing the ruse, Sam not only abandoned the hunt, but stole Martin’s car and left him in the middle of nowhere in order to drive nearly a thousand miles for what was effectively a booty call. Without doing anything more than trying to call back (didn’t even text or dial the number manually). Martin, now completely over the edge, then kidnapped a human girl to force Benny to let him whack his head off. Instead, Martin ended up dead (how things probably would have worked out for Sam if he’d continued the hunt, too); Dean figured good riddance; Sam was furious at being tricked. Not furious at anything Martin had done, mind you, or that he had done – just at being tricked.

And yet, there are still fans who are defending Sam.

This reminds me a bit of how people perceive domestic violence situations. They often wonder why women don’t leave, but are shocked at the “underhanded” things someone who is in an abusive relationship may need to do in order to get out of it and stay safe. When someone you love intends you harm, sometimes you have to trick them. Dean is no fool. He knows for a fact his brother has betrayed him in the past and not for terribly good reasons, either. He knows Sam doesn’t really have his back. And he knows Sam already really hates Benny. So, he does something cold and clever…and also necessary to keep everyone separate and alive. Unfortunately, Sam’s lack of responsibility exceeds even Dean’s expectations and Martin ends up dead.

Note, too, that Sam is not just portrayed as betraying and abandoning Dean. This is the second time Sam has abandoned someone besides Dean in a situation this season. The first time, it was Kevin, who was forced to engineer his own escape from Crowley for a year, which indirectly led to his girlfriend’s death. In this second case, while Sam didn’t directly participate in Martin’s rampage, he was very much responsible for putting Martin into a situation where Martin was furious, unbalanced, felt abandoned, and wanted to take it out on someone. And if Sam had been there when Martin went on that rampage, it’s not clear just how far Sam would have let it go, considering he was willing to let Martin whack his brother over the head and handcuff him to a radiator.

And while I’m not too wild with how exaggerated this season has become in the Sam-trashing department (Really, I get it, already – Sam’s in the wrong here, not Dean. Move on, show), it may be that this is what it will take for the showrunners to uproot past showrunners’ whitewashing of Sam’s actions in the minds of some fans (or those of casual viewers who only catch the show every three or four episodes).

Sam’s actions this season really aren’t any worse than what he’s done in the past. Sam hasn’t physically attacked his brother this season. He hasn’t chosen a demon over him. He hasn’t murdered possessed people to drink their blood. Instead, his betrayals have been small and mean and almost random. He is all-too-human and the lack of excuses for his behavior only make them look worse, but they aren’t actually worse than things he’s done in the past. So, it’s really not over the top or out of character. It’s just being presented with no pretty supernatural bow or varnish this time and wow, does it look harsh.

Some of this unfortunately founders on the show’s inability to make me concerned about Sam’s anger. I should be afraid of it, but it mostly makes me shrug and want to slap some sense into him. He comes off as a big baby, not a scary large man. However, if we’re finally going to revisit the “Sam, Interrupted” plot of Sam’s corrosive anger in a way that makes, you know, sense, I’m okay with that. Sam is so angry right now that he can’t think straight. But the damage he’s doing isn’t so much physical Hulk Smash. Instead, in his jealousy and resentment, he’s teaming up with people who are seriously unstable and blabbing things about Dean’s recent history to them that do not make Dean safe. Sure, the immediate danger of Martin is gone, but I’m sure the writers can conjure up others to take his place. Sam’s disloyalty could get Dean in serious trouble, even if Sam doesn’t directly participate.

What is chilling and dangerous about Sam’s anger is not that it’s huge, but that it’s petty. I keep hearing that Sam is damaged and yes, he is. His small, shabby visions of what constitute a desirable “normal” existence, where he essentially is always a long-term guest in someone else’s life, are sad and even a bit pathetic.

But he is not crazy. Most people who burned witches weren’t crazy. They were just angry and scared and willing to harm others to make themselves feel better. That’s Sam right now. For some reason, he has decided to blame Dean for returning from Purgatory, to punish him for it. If somebody gets in the way of that revenge, too bad, so sad.

Finally, I wasn’t too thrilled about Martin’s transformation in this one, since I really liked him in “Sam, Interrupted,” but I have to admit (however grudgingly) that it is a logical progression for the character – not the only possible one but one that does make sense. Martin was in the hospital for a long time – years, in fact – and probably wasn’t there willingly once the Wraith hunt played out (As far as the hospital was concerned, Martin did aid Dean in escaping the guards to murder a nurse). The brothers had also talked about his initial breakdown, how he freaked out on a hunt and started shooting at thin air.

Yes, he came off as a nice guy in “Sam, Interrupted,” but different triggers were being pressed there. Here, he is put in a situation where the monster is sympathetic and a friend to one of the Hunters – and he does not respond to this well at all. All that folksy bonhomie goes right down the tubes.

Well, folks, that’s what happens when you put extreme bigots in situations that push all their buttons. They can go from being ordinary nice folks to homicidal nutjobs in nothing flat. All you have to do is push them hard enough in the wrong directions. In fact, one fictional inspiration for this may have been an episode of Highlander where an Immortal who is a former slave is chased relentlessly by an Immortal bigoted bounty hunter for killing in self-defense over a century before. To the bounty hunter, the former slave has no rights, so he doesn’t get to even defend himself from attack (just as some viewers don’t feel Benny deserves to defend himself or his great-granddaughter, simply because he is not human).

By the way, this is a classic Western plot, often involving Native American or “half-breed” characters in the Benny role. It usually doesn’t end well for the Benny character and it doesn’t always end well for the Dean character, either. If anything, Martin’s death is a subversion of the cliche, and a welcome one. So, I can grudgingly accept Martin’s fate, because it is realistic and delivers an important punch that makes you think.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Fun lines:

Dean: Let me guess – you’re out of pecan? Story of my life.

Dean [on the phone]: Benny? I got a body here in Carencro with two holes in it. And I just found out you went fishin’. Do I need to tell you what this looks like?

Benny: I know it’s hard to believe, but I wasn’t always this cute and cuddly.

Benny: I feel like I finally got a handle on things.
Dean: A handle on things?! Benny, you got two stiffs on your hands and two hunters on your ass!
Benny: Oh, please. That half-wit at the cafe? I’ll take my chances.
Dean: That half-wit was sent by my brother and trust me – my brother is not someone you want to mess with.

Dean: So, what’s the plan? I hang back while you guys do some trust falls and binge drinking?
Benny: Man, if I didn’t know you better, I’d say you have an extremely low opinion of us vamps.
Dean: Call it healthy skepticism.

Desmond: Benny didn’t say he was bringing a friend.
Dean: You’re not gonna talk, are you? ‘Cause I have been dealing with Crazy all day.

Benny [to Dean]: You lost a step, friend. You lay off the junk food.

Dean [to Sam about Martin]: He had it coming.

Next Week: We talk about tie-in stuff!

On January 16: In the New Year, Castiel returns with a serious Head Naomi problem and tries to mend the fences between the brothers. Now, why do I have the feeling that’s not going to work this time?

You can watch (or download) this episode, in standard or HD definition, on Amazon.com.

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About Paula R. Stiles

Paula is not at all paranoid about government conspiracies after six years in EMS, two years in Africa for the Peace Corps, a few summers with the Park Service, and ten years studying the Knights Templar. She's seen governments in action. They couldn't cover up a toy picnic table, let alone evidence of alien visitation. Writes about science for fun, history for money, and zombies for the company. You can read her sober-as-a-judge book about Templars in medieval Spain, Templar Convivencia, on Amazon. You can find her homepage at: http://thesnowleopard.net.

Paula R. StilesRecap and Review: Supernatural 8.09: Citizen Fang